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OCD In Dogs: What You Should Know

OCD in dogs: signs, treatments and other psychiatric conditions in dogs

Did you know that dogs can suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)?

Though we cannot truly understand the thought patterns behind a dog’s behaviours, and whether or not they’re propelled by compulsive thoughts, many dogs show similar signs as those seen in people.

What Does OCD In Dogs Look Like?

OCD in dogs often manifests as a repetitive habit that has begun to affect their life. 

For example, it’s not unusual for a dog to chase their tail from time to time. But this can develop into a way of coping with stress, boredom, or anxiety. Your dog may chase their tail constantly, past the point of exhaustion. It may affect their ability to live a normal life. 

Another common compulsion is chasing light. It often starts with chasing the dot of a laser pointer as an indoor game. We strongly discourage the use of laser pointers because this game does not allow your dog the satisfaction of a catch. 

If you absolutely insist on using a laser pointer, only use it to get your dog revved up, and to direct them onto a toy. Then, encourage them to chase the toy. If your dog’s mind stays on “seeking” mode, without the final thrill of the catch, it’s as though they’re never satisfied, and they never know when the game ends.

Laser pointers are dangerous because dogs have trouble generalizing. They often learn to chase any shimmer of light, even reflections off windows, bowls of water and their own ID tags, which quickly allow this habit to take over their life.

Not all cases of OCD have a direct, preventable trigger. Certain breeds, like Retrievers, Dobermans and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, are prone to OCD behaviours.

How OCD In Dogs Is Diagnosed

Some potential symptoms of OCD can look like symptoms of other health issues.

For example, a dog may chew their tail obsessively when stressed, but the actual trigger could be chronic pain or itching. 

That’s why it’s important that you go to your vet for a full blood panel and fecal test. Ruling out any other underlying health condition, your vet can make a diagnosis and set up a treatment plan.

Treating OCD in dogs usually means more exercise and mental stimulation. Though OCD is a psychiatric disorder, not a behavioural issue, professional, positive dog training can help you learn to stimulate your dog’s mind and reduce sources of anxiety. 

Your vet may prescribe drugs that your dog may or may not need for the rest of their life. Conventional drugs can sometimes be used with holistic treatments like CBD oil to help with anxiety, and a fresh diet. 

The sooner you start a treatment plan for your dog, the better the prognosis will be. It is possible for your dog to have a good quality of life for many years with OCD, and the associated behaviours can be reduced or even completely stopped. 

Other Conditions That Affect Dogs

Veterinary experts suspect that dogs may also be affected by autism, which can also manifest as repetitive behaviours, along with trancing, problems with socialization and episodic aggression. Little research has been conducted on autism in dogs, though researchers have noted that certain breeds like Bull Terriers and Jack Russell Terriers seem more likely to show autism-like symptoms. 

We do know, as well,that dogs can be affected by a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Canine cognitive dysfunction in senior dogs causes them to be forgetful, disoriented, anxious and sometimes aggressive. CCD symptoms often worsen at night, similar to “sundowning” in humans with Alzheimer’s. 

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